Yoga training is particularly effective in reducing stress and anxiety. In fact, yoga’s potential for reducing stress related symptoms is so strong, and so well-established, that the National Institutes of Health recommended meditation over prescription drugs as the preferred treatment for mild hypertension in 1984. Yoga practice may reduce participants’ perceptions of stress and reactivity to stress, including the stress of chronic conditions, such as cancer, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s disease, and the stress of caring for an individual with a chronic condition. For example, regular yoga practitioners were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva samples.
Yoga theory and research also support yoga’s potential for reducing anxiety. Long-term yoga practitioners were diagnosed as having lower levels of both state and trait anxiety than non-yoga practitioners. Yoga is effective for reducing anxiety symptoms in older adults, including older adults with documented clinical anxiety diagnosis. Yoga’s effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety symptoms may be due to its capacity for lowering stress reactivity and increasing concentration and self-control. Yoga breathing may be useful for restoring a sense of control when an individual is confronted by an anxiety-inducing trigger.
Bonura, K.B. (2011). The Psychological Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults: Evidence and Guidelines. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 21, 129 – 142.